Thursday, September 23, 2021

Grammy-Winning South African LadySmith Black Mambazo Makes VPAC Debut

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, male choral group from South Africa, will perform March 8, 2013 at the Aladdin Theater in Portland. Photo By Shane Doyle.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, male choral group from South Africa, will perform March 8, 2013 at the Aladdin Theater in Portland. Photo By Shane Doyle.

*(Los Angeles, CA) – One of South Africa’s most prolific recording artists, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, will make their debut at Valley Performing Arts Center on Thursday, January 21.

This exuberant male choral group, who sings in the vocal styles of isicathamiya and mbube, rose to worldwide prominence with their appearance on Paul Simon’s 1986 album, Graceland, a landmark recording that was considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences.

In addition to their work with Paul Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has recorded with numerous artists from around the world, including Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Emmylou Harris, Melissa Etheridge, and many others.  The group’s current cd, Music from INALA, was recently nominated for “Best World Music Album of 2015.” It is the group’s fifteenth Grammy Nomination.

“Ladysmith Black Mambazo was a big influence on my early musical tastes,” said Executive Director Thor Steingraber. “Their collaboration with Paul Simon and the power of their music, as the world watched South Africa overcome Apartheid, still inspires me today.  Having them at VPAC on the 30th Anniversary of their breakout album Graceland reminds us that the struggle for racial harmony is a struggle that takes generations.”

In 2014, Ladysmith Black Mambazo – led by founder and leader Joseph Shabalala – celebrated over fifty years of uplifting music. Within this music are the delicate sounds of their native South African musical traditions. In those years, the a cappella vocal group has created a musical and spiritual spirit that has touched a worldwide audience. Their musical efforts over the past five decades have garnered praise and accolades from a wide body of people, organizations and countries.


Tickets for Ladysmith Black Mambazo range from $20 to $55 and can be purchased by visiting or calling (818) 677-3000.  Valley Performing Arts Center is located on the campus of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), 18111 Nordhoff Street Northridge, CA 91330-8448, at the corner of Nordhoff and Lindley.

About Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Assembled in the early 1960s in South Africa by Joseph, then a young farmboy turned factory worker, the group took the name Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Ladysmith is the name of Joseph’s hometown, about three hours west of Durban and 3 hours east of Johannesburg; Black being a reference to the oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; and Mambazo being the Zulu word for chopping axe, a symbol of the group’s ability to “chop down” any singing rival who might challenge them. Their collective voices were so tight and their harmonies so polished that by the end of the 1960’s they were banned from competitions, although they were welcome to participate as entertainers.

A radio broadcast in 1970 opened the door to their first record contract – the beginning of an ambitious discography that currently includes more than fifty recordings. Their philosophy in the studio was – and continues to be – just as much about preservation of musical heritage as it is about entertainment. The group borrows heavily from a traditional music called isicathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-Ya), which developed in the mines of South Africa, where black workers were taken by rail to work far away from their homes and their families. Poorly housed and paid worse, the mine workers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs into the wee hours on Sunday morning. When the miners returned to the homelands, this musical tradition returned with them.

During the 1970’s and early 1980’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo established themselves as the most successful singing group in South Africa. In the mid-1980s, Paul Simon visited South Africa and incorporated the group’s rich tenor/alto/bass harmonies into his famous “Graceland” album – a landmark recording that was considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences. A year later, Paul Simon produced Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s first worldwide release, “Shaka Zulu”, which won a Grammy Award in 1988 for Best Folk Recording. Since then, the group has been awarded two more Grammy Awards (“Raise Your Spirit Higher (2004) and “Ilembe (2009)”) and has been nominated a total of fifteen times.

Their film work includes a featured appearance in Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker video and Spike Lee’s Do It A Cappella. They’ve provided soundtrack material for Disney’s The Lion King, Part II as well as Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America, Marlon Brando’s A Dry White Season, Sean Connery’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, James Earl Jones’ Cry The Beloved Country and Clint Eastwood’s Invictus. A film documentary titled On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, the story of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was nominated for an Academy Award. They have appeared on Broadway and have been nominated for Tony Awards and have won a Drama Desk Award. In more recent popular culture they have been part of such shows as The Family Guy & the movie Mean Girls (“But you LOVE Ladysmith Black Mambazo”).

In 2013 the group released “Live: Singing For Peace Around The World” which is a collection of songs recorded during their World Tours of 2011 and 2012. On December 6, 2013 it was announced that this cd was nominated by the Grammy Awards as Best World Music CD for 2013. The winner of the Grammy Award will be announced January 26, 2014.

In 2014 the group released their newest cd, “Always With Us.” This cd is a tribute to the group’s matriarch, Nellie Shabalala, Joseph Shabalala’s wife who passed away in 2002. This collection of songs are recordings Nellie did with her church choir in 2001. Ladysmith Black Mambazo recorded their voices with Nellie’s songs in a beautiful tribute to her life and memory.

About Valley Performing Arts Center

The Valley Performing Arts Center’s 2015-16 Season signals a new era for the five-year old premiere event venue.  Under the leadership of Executive Director Thor Steingraber, VPAC expands its programming to include new and original work, and outstanding multi-disciplinary performances. Located on the campus of California State University Northridge, VPAC’s season offers a vibrant and diverse performance program of nearly 50 classical and popular music, dance, theater, family and international events that will serve to establish VPAC as the intellectual and cultural heart of the San Fernando Valley and further establish itself as one of the top arts companies in Southern California.  The award-winning 1,700-seat theatre was designed by HGA Architects and Engineers and was recently cited by the LA Times as “a growing hub for live music, dance, drama and other cultural events.”

Calendar Listing for Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Valley Performing Arts Center
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330

Thursday, January 21 at 8pm

Prices: $20 – $55
In Person: VPAC Ticket Office, located in the VPAC Courtyard
By Phone: (818) 677-3000



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